Both extroverts and introverts can lead well. Both can lead poorly. Personality is only one part of leadership. However, your personality as a leader comes with intrinsic advantages and challenges. The extroverted pastor tends to work a room better than an introvert. The introverted pastor tends to listen better one-on-one.
Partly because they are more outgoing, I believe extroverted pastors will get the benefit of the doubt—more so than introverted pastors. Many have tackled the subject of how introverts can overcome weaknesses, but I haven’t noticed as much written about extroverted pastors.
As an extrovert, I’ve noticed some painful shortcomings in my leadership. Perhaps I’m alone in some of these struggles. But maybe some of you can relate.
- Extroverts can talk too much. I process my thoughts by talking to others. Nobody will wonder what I’m thinking because thinking and talking are synonymous for me. Many times, this trait works to my advantage. I can hold a conversation. But talking too much is annoying. Not listening is rude. I’m guilty.
- Extroverts can bounce too much. I love a room full of people. Bouncing from person to person and conversation to conversation is fun. I enjoy seeing people engage with each other, especially in the church! However, this tendency can come across as superficial, especially when someone needs me to focus deeply on their words.
- Extroverts can overshare opinions. I have lots of opinions, and I’m glad to share them. However, there is wisdom in restraint. I admire people who don’t feel the urge to share every opinion on every subject. Maybe one day I’ll be more like them.
- Extroverts can assume every group needs to be large. Every time a group gathers at the church, I want to invite everyone. Usually, this tendency is good. That is, unless the group is designed to be small or confidential. The “come on by” and “the more, the merrier” mentality is not always wise.
Part of being a better leader is practicing to be a better leader. So I’ve started some exercises to help temper my extroverted nature.
- Literally stop talking. I will challenge myself in my head, “Sam, stop talking. Now.” When I have the urge to say something, I’ll tell myself to wait another minute. Then another minute. Then maybe another minute. After I feel like I’m torturing myself, then it’s usually good to say something.
- When you feel the urge to move to another person in a crowded room, stay five more minutes in the current conversation. This tactic has helped me dive much deeper into conversations. Don’t look past people. Don’t interrupt their flow of thought with “yes” or “uh huh.” Simply look them in the eye and listen.
- Ask more questions instead of giving opinions. Short but rich questions allow the other person to expound their thoughts. Questions like “Why do you think that is?” or “How does that make you feel?” help open avenues to better conversations.
- Seek out the wisdom of introverts. Find the reserved sages in your church and spend a lot of one-on-one time with them. Don’t be afraid to sit in silence with them for extended periods. They will give you incredible insight when they speak.
Both extroverts and introverts have strengths and weaknesses built into their personalities. Extroverted pastors will have some natural struggles in shepherding their congregations. You can overcome many of these struggles with a few tactics and a little practice.